Revelation 2 today.  Jesus begins his message to the seven churches, four covered in chapter 2.  Since seven is the number of perfection in the Bible, this symbolizes all the churches everywhere for all times.  The message then is relevant to today.  Here's what he says: 1. To the church at Ephesus: Jesus sees all their good words and patient endurance, how they don't tolerate evil people's evil deeds (vs 2).  They are fervent in examining false teachers.  Jesus' complaint: they don't love Jesus as they first did.  They don't love each other as they first did (vs 3).  They had fallen far from their first love.  They were only going thru the motions of their faith.  They did hate the deeds of the Nicolaitians (as Jesus did, vs 6--the Nocolaitians were the ones who turned grace into license, using grace as a means to sin).

Question for all of us: Have we lost our first love?  Do we love Jesus today as we did the first time we met him?

2. To the church at Smyrna: Jesus has nothing bad to say about them.  They were about to go through suffering at the hands of Jews.  Jesus calls their synagogue a "synagogue of Satan."  Jesus exhorts them to be faithful amidst the persecution, to endure, to receive the "crown of life" (vs 10).

Question: are we enduring amidst persecution for our faith?

3. To the church at Pergamum: Jesus commends their loyalty to him in this city, even though there was "a great throne of Satan" there (vs 13), a place where there was a shrine to the Emperor.  He demanded worship of himself.  Christians there refused.  It even cost one of the Christians in this city named Antipas (vs 15) to lose his life.  Jesus' complaints to them: a) they followed the sins of Balaam in the Old Testament: greed and sexual immorality. Also, b) they permitted some Nicolaitians to be among them.  Jesus called for repentance (vs 16), that they change these ways.

Question: are you greedy?  Sexually immoral, again, using Jesus' grace as permission to sin?

4. To the church at Thyiatira: it's much like Ephesus.  They were faithful in their deeds, faith and endurance.  They were growing in their faith.  The problem seemed to be a woman prophetess, much like the evil Old Testament woman named Jezebel, who was teaching the people toward using grace to sin (vs 21). Jesus said he will place her on a sick bed and she will suffer greatly.  For the rest of those in Thyiatira who have not followed her teaching, Jesus exhorts them to hold tightly to their faith.

Question: are we using the grace of Jesus in our lives to excuse sin and immorality in our lives?

After 30 plus years of pastoral ministry, not much has changed.  We still deal with false teachers, using grace to sin, greed, etc.  Jesus is still calling his church to repent.

Finally, don't miss this one great promise.  Jesus gave it to the Christians at Pergamum as they endured for him.  It's a promise for us too.  To each who endures, "I will give to each one a white stone, and on that stone will be engraved a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it."  In heaven, Jesus will give all of us who endure to the end a new name.  It will be a special name just between him and us, I would guess much like an affectionate name we share with our spouse that no one else would understand.  I would guess it's a special affection, a way of saying "Thank you for enduring."

I can't wait to hear and know my new name.  What about you?